Well I am planning my next ride. Not my most challenging ride ever so I am being slack on the planning but this post should help folks who are sort of new to long distance ridding or camping or the combination of both.
I want to do 30 days under the sky, the bike (and sidecar) dog and me. This will be a proof of concept test ride for my trip to Alaska next year. I will meet up with a couple of friends, test out the gear, see how things go with the dog and side car plus route recon ie explore some areas so I won’t get sidetracked when I do the Deadhorse AK run, tryout some camping spots, meet some guys who own bike shops along the route in case I have problems etc etc.
I have done some hard ridding over the years, and loved setting out with nothing much more then a saddle roll, a gun, pocket full of cash and a toothbrush stuff into my boot top. I took a great deal of pride in ridding coast to coast with limited gear or old-school gear our great-grandfathers would have used. The wear and tear has added up and I got to start throttle back some so I can stay on the road longer. Plus Alaska is a no shit kind of ride and I want to ensure my gear is good to go and comfortable for 11000 miles, round trip.
The 1st thing I tend to before rolling out on long rides like this is the bike. If I had a particular destination in mind I would start with route selection, but I’ll be mostly fucking off on this ride. I keep my bikes in good working order and all I needed for this trip was new break pads. Because I ride often I understand how long tires and breaks last given my bike and ridding style. Because I ride almost daily, the battery stays charged and healthy. All my lights work, all oils, break and clutch fuild checked out fine, both in quantity and quality. I tightened every mounting bracket and hardware I could get a tool one without removing the tank or fairing. Anything that was loose got some thread locker to help keep things in place. I also readjust my highway pegs. They always slip on long rides and I want to start off in the most comfortable position.
Next I look at my tools. Normally I am a tool snob but snobbery is wasted on roadside tools. These things stay in my saddle bags for months at a time. Typically they don’t come out of their bags unless I am cleaning them for a road trip. They all got a nice WD40 bath/ rub down. I carry a toolkit I picked up from Cycle Gear for $40. I use to cary a lot more tools but bikes have improved, a lot and so has my tool skillz and my thinking. Fact is you only need a few tools to help get yourself back on the road, and the more experience you aquire the easier it becomes to get by on less. My tools are in small zip lock bags, and then placed into customs tool bags designed to fit into some of the dead spaces of a Harley’s saddle bag. They look like “L”‘s and i bought them at a bike rally years ago. These are nice because space is at a premium on a bike. There are a lot of small, clever items like that out there for biked, especially Harleys. I have a small electrical repair kit, wire, fuses, circuit tester and some bulbs. There are fuel cans designed to fit into the dead space of a Harley’s saddle bag. In theory they hold a gallon of fuel, I figure it’s more like. 8 gallons when you figure in spillage but I have one in each saddle bag plus a quart of oil in each bag and a small, unopened bottle of DOT 5 break fuild, which for me takes care of both the clutch and breaks. 1.6 gallons of fuel extends my range by 45+ miles. Not to many places in the lower 48 where you are more then 45 miles from gas or help.
Because I ride often, I get the maximum life out of my batteries but I still cary one of those portal jump start boxes. Any one of us can leave the lights on over night and drain our battery. No point be stranded when $80 will get you back on the road if you do something dumb.
By far the most common problems I see on long trips is shit falling off bikes and tires. People tend to strap shit everywhere on these long trips. I bring a goodly number of zip ties in a variety of sizes, plus duct tape and electrical tape. I bring 3 ways to repair and inflate tires. The most simple is fix-a-flat. You can find small bike size cans of it on the interwebz. I bring two tire patch kits, two -45 gram size cans of compressed air, two cans of fix-a-flat and a small air compressor that plugs into the cigarette lighter on my bike. I keep the fix-a-flat handy but it’s all cross loaded between the bags.
I always cross load my gear so loosing a bag or something loosing it’s water resistant seal or a bag opening up on the road and dumping its contents while I ride or any number of things won’t leave me zero balance on something important.
I also keep a set of frog togs for riding in bad weather on my bike, two cords to charge my phone/ tablet, WD40, JB weld, super glue, thread locker, roll of quarters, 3 hondos stashed in 3 different places, two lighters, ear plugs, ear buds, baby wipes, sun block, rubbers, spare set of sunglasses, two sets of clear eye protection, pair of smart wool socks, baby powder and more zip lock bags. Just about everything goes into a zip lock bags before being packed into a weather resistant bag. Double the water proofing. Ever and always double down on water proofing your shit
One of the reasons I suggest Harleys to folks is the support gear that goes with them. I have a set of these that pair up with the fuel cans. Very helpful product. Easy to get in and out of your saddle bags even after you pack a lot of shit into them. Something like this let’s you keep all manner of small stuff handy. Like chapstick, sun block and bolts to throw through windshields. My least favorite way to add extra storage but they are helpful. These sit on top of the saddled bags. They look like ass but are hella convient, easy on and easy off. I keep stuff I need quickly or stuff I need everyday in these bags. Fix-a-flat, socks, toothbrush etc and stuff I want to take indoors with me if I am saying in hotels or with friends. Two easy quick connect fasteners and off you go with the shit you need for a night or two. My camping stuff goes into one these, with the tent and sleeping bag rolled up and stuffed into the bag on top.
I use a homemade version of this to hold my tablet to the gas tank. Again, looks ugly, works like a boss, putting my map/ navigation and music within easy reach. Use to be back in the day you had to stop to read your map, or write your exits numbers and milage on your tank with a grease pencil. Now you look down and there is a 10 inch, live update map, turn by turn directions and local weather reports courtesy of Google, not to mention Molly Hatchet pouring out your speakers .
I have a lot of storage on my bike and yet space is a major factor when camping off a bike, even more so when you plan on staying out for 30 days. A lot of shit will happen in 30 days, some you can predict. Some you cant. Somethings will certinaly happen, but you can’t predict when. Like when you will get rained on. You need to pick gear that will cover more then one oh shit or you will consume your space in no time. I will have the side car, but that will be full of dog and dog stuff. Normally how you pack, with the weight evenly disturbed is an important factor as well, but the side car makes it less so.
The number one way to save space is to cut down on the clothes your bring. Which means buying a new shirt and new pair of socks every few days or doing a small load of laundry every few days, or getting really fucking nasty. Or some combination of all three. Well I don’t wear underdraws so that will save space. I will be wearing under armor shirts and socks ie $$$ so that will mean laundry every few days or smelling really, really bad. Body order and wood smoke gets rank. I’ll probably do laundry every 4th day. Which means packing 4 pairs of socks, 2 extra shirts (one long sleeve, one short sleeve) and one pair of gym shorts for when I am washing my britches. Weather can vary a lot during this time of year but not so much I need to bring a lot of winter gear. Once again it will be under armor stuff, this time the long John type. That plus ridding leathers, gloves and a pair of smart wool socks will get the job done and then some.
Ps don’t forget the shower shoes
Part two will cover the camping gear I plan on bringing, how I will eat and drink and sleep.